Tradition dictates that at the end of the year any critic worth their salt should (nay, must) throw together a list of the top ten movies they saw in the last twelve months. Well, I’ll do you one better. Here you’ll find every single film I saw this year ranked from the very worst to the very best.
Films in the top ten and bottom five are eligible to win awards, prestigious for the former and embarrassing for the latter. Films nestled between those two extremes have been given a five-word review and a grade which correlates to my general feeling towards them.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the cesspit.
25. The Cloverfield Paradox
Worst Producer: J.J. Abrams
Dumped onto Netflix way back in February, The Cloverfield Paradox was so bad that it managed to remain my most-hated film of the year across the ten months that followed. The shambolic production completely wastes a relatively strong cast with a script that makes little attempt at character development and even less sense than Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
For good measure, I’ve awarded J.J. Abrams with the Worst Producer award this year. His practice of poaching low-budget movies and twisting them into an installment of his vanity-fueled franchise hopefully ends here. His demotion of this movie to the wonky status of ‘Netflix Original’ acts almost as a guilty plea for crimes against cinema, leaving the reputation of this once-promising series utterly destroyed.
Full review here.
24. Pacific Rim: Uprising
Worst Screenplay: Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin
Speaking of franchises that once had potential but are now rotting on the side of the road, Pacific Rim: Uprising came out this year and proved physically painful to sit through. While the first movie wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, it had a lot of heart and some superb action sequences by master filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. This sequel has none of that.
Steven S. DeKnight makes his directorial debut here and my advice to him would be: don’t quit your day job. Uprising is completely devoid of any tension or style, saddling its cast with what is quite possibly one of the worst scripts ever adapted into a major motion picture. The film moves at a shockingly slow pace as it finds the most convoluted way to hit “undo” on the events of the first installment, all the while spewing unfunny quips at the audience in every scene.
John Boyega deserves better than this.
23. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Worst Supporting Performance: Rafe Spall
When the opening scene of Fallen Kingdom‘s first trailer looked strikingly like a Budweiser commercial, the single remaining shred of optimism I had for this franchise went straight out of the window. J.A. Bayona has impressively put together a sequel even more stupid than its predecessor.
It truly pains me that this movie made well over one billion dollars at the global box office, given that it is one of the laziest blockbusters in recent memory. Shamelessly, it recycles ideas from previous entries that are now decades old while bringing nothing new to the table. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are so remarkably bland that after two movies I still can’t remember their character’s names (and I refuse to Google it).
But it’s Rafe Spall who picks up a Worst Supporting Performance award here for his tedious scenery-chewing villain, with perhaps the most idiotic plan yet in a franchise that has seen more than its fair share.
22. The Commuter
Worst Lead Performance: Liam Neeson
I got duped. Sucked in by the lure of respected actors Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Sam Neill, I had the naivete to think this might be something more than the bog-standard Liam Neeson action flick. Needless to say, I was gravely mistaken. The aforementioned stars appear for roughly five to ten minutes each, with the rest of the movie populated by a cast of no-names with questionable acting ability.
While there is some fun to be had in watching Neeson cling desperately to the bottom of a moving train or beat the crap out of someone with an electric guitar, those two scenes alone do not a movie make. The premise of The Commuter is actually pretty neat, but sadly it’s executed very poorly and completely collapses in the third act. Liam Neeson takes home Worst Lead Performance for a role indistinguishable from any of his other action characters, presumably cashing in on another pay cheque gig.
Full review here.
21. The Incredibles 2
Worst Director: Brad Bird
After a fourteen-year wait, Pixar finally made the only sequel that anybody actually wanted… and it sucked. Although disappointing, it isn’t exactly surprising that Incredibles 2 missed the mark; this is business-as-usual for Pixar these days. The once-reputable studio now specialises in visually-pleasing but frustratingly shallow cash cows.
This movie is in large part a retread of the original and what few new ideas it brings to the table are highly uninspired. The villain is obvious from the start and her plan is a convoluted cliche, while the team of super-heroes introduced fail to make any impression and probably only exist for merchandising purposes.
Brad Bird once said that he would only make an Incredibles 2 if he thought it would be better than the first one. Presumably, he gave up on that idea after Tomorrowland flopped. He gets a Worst Director award.
20. Solo: A Star Wars Story C-
Better luck next time, Disney.
Full review here.
19. The Meg C
Bitterly disappointed by this one.
18. Aquaman C
Very pretty but quite dull.
Full review here.
17. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs C
An uneven mix of vignettes.
16. Annihilation C+
Thrilling journey that goes nowhere.
15. A Quiet Place C+
AKA Jump Scares: The Movie.
Full review here.
14. Ant-Man and the Wasp C+
I forgot they made this.
13. You Were Never Really Here B
The third act is weak.
12. Hotel Artemis B
Goofy but fun futuristic thriller.
11. Game Night B+
Bateman and McAdams are superb.
10. Deadpool 2
Deadpool 2 improves on the first film in pretty much every way. The story is more interesting, the action sequences are more ambitious, the jokes are funnier and there’s plenty of new elements introduced to keep things feeling fresh. Chief among them are Zazie Beetz and Josh Brolin as Domino and Cable, two fantastic additions to the franchise who instantly find a great working chemistry with energetic star Ryan Reynolds. I had a lukewarm response to Deadpool’s first outing, but after this sequel I cannot wait to see where the character goes next.
Best Lead Actor: Nicolas Cage
It’s always a pleasure when Nicolas Cage decides to do some real acting and Mandy truly is some of his best work to date. His chaotic style lends itself perfectly to the insane psychedelic world envisioned by director Panos Cosmatos, so much so that it’s difficult to imagine anybody else playing the lead in this movie. Mandy is a bountiful feast for the eyes and the ears, filled with mesmerising visuals and masterfully scored by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. It’s an ordinary revenge plot executed in a truly extraordinary way.
During a remarkably successful year for the horror genre, it was Ari Aster’s indie favourite that ended up leaving the biggest impression. Hereditary is simply chilling from start to finish and certainly not for the faint-hearted. The film has some gruesome moments, but they always feel earned by its consistent tension and tight scripting. The stellar cast is also on top form throughout, particularly critical darlings Toni Collette and Ann Dowd. It’s not perfect, but it is a bold feature debut for Aster whose follow-up project is awaited with great anticipation.
7. Black Panther
Best Original Score: Ludwig Göransson
Ryan Coogler’s addition to the MCU tapestry is far more than a run-of-the-mill super-hero romp. Black Panther is a cultural milestone that approaches pressing societal issues in a thoughtful yet thoroughly entertaining way. The film is an audiovisual treat, boasting some of the best production design seen this year and a powerful score courtesy of Ludwig Göransson. Chadwick Boseman leads a formidable cast among which Danai Gurira, Andy Serkis and Michael B. Jordan are particularly strong.
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Lead Actress: Frances McDormand
Martin McDonagh’s magnum opus more than lived up to the hype when it finally hit UK cinemas in January 2018. Though misleading marketing played up the comedic aspects of the film, Three Billboards is actually one of the more harrowing dramas released this year. Frances McDormand gives an unforgettable performance in the lead role, accompanied by similarly stellar turns from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. It has been almost a full year since I last watched this film, but there are numerous moments that I still remember vividly – a credit to the excellent work from everyone involved.
5. I, Tonya
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
I, Tonya was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The film is a witty and emotional rollercoaster through both the troubled life of Tonya Harding and one of the most shocking sporting scandals in modern history. Margot Robbie gives a fantastic performance in the lead, but its Allison Janney who picks up an award here for her portrayal of Harding’s tough-as-nails mother LaVona Golden. Whether or not this film is too sympathetic to Harding and her associates is a matter that is up for debate, but the fact remains that it’s an engrossing watch.
4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Best Supporting Actor: Henry Cavill
More than twenty years since it began, the Mission: Impossible series is the best it has ever been. Fallout is not only a superb action film, but also a gripping and intelligent spy thriller. Tom Cruise and his death-defying stunts are perhaps the lifeblood of this series, but one cannot underestimate the value added by his fantastic supporting cast. Rebecca Ferguson and Henry Cavill are standouts in this installment, the latter earning my award for Best Supporting Actor.
3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Screenplay: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Into the Spider-Verse brings all new meaning to the term “comic-book movie”. Far from a mere adaptation, its gorgeous visual style makes it more like a perfect amalgamation of the two distinct mediums. After a series of regrettable creative decisions regarding the character, it’s incredible to see Sony offer a perfect interpretation of not one, but three different versions of Spider-Man on-screen.
Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson are perfectly cast as Miles Morales and Peter Parker, while Hailee Steinfeld successfully brings fan-favourite character Spider-Gwen into the mainstream. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman are awarded with Best Screenplay for a script densely packed with hilarious jokes, while still offering a genuinely inspiring message at the end. Simply put: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie to date.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Best Director(s): Anthony and Joe Russo
The Russo brothers did the seemingly impossible by delivering a film that both lives up to six years of hype and successfully blends together a selection of quite disparate franchises. Infinity War is filled with jaw-dropping spectacle, but never loses sight of the characters that have made this franchise so beloved. It’s a bona fide modern epic with a stunning ending that deserves instant initiation into the pop culture hall of fame. ‘Nuff said.
1. The Shape of Water
Only Guillermo Del Toro could craft a romance story between woman and fish monster so compelling that it made me cry for a full fifteen minutes. Of course, he couldn’t have done it without the wonderful Sally Hawkins who excels in a challenging mute role, and unsung hero Doug Jones who gives a skillful physical performance as the unnamed amphibious being. The signature visual flair that Del Toro brings to each of his pictures is striking as ever, while the script is a touching exploration of what it means to be human. Without a doubt, The Shape of Water is the best film I saw this year.